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Daily Digest for Monday, June 15

  • $3 million for Gulf PR; Steptoe drops presidential candidate; Yemen separatists lobby UN; Lott’s new home has foreign clients; Crackdown on Chinese influence fells 54 scientists; Ballard’s Rubin ends foreign lobbying; and more

1. New York’s Teneo strikes $3 million Gulf PR deal

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – FEB 10, 2019: Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The Arab Gulf monarchies are showing no sign of ramping down their US influence campaigns, tumbling oil prices be damned. The latest massive contract has Emirati Princess Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan‘s philanthropy paying New York’s Teneo Strategy $250,000 a month through the end of 2021 for public relations work. Princess Salama is married to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, widely seen as the de facto ruler in the United Arab Emirates. Teneo co-founder Douglas Band is personally working the account, along with nine others. We’ve got the scoop here.

The contract comes as the trio of energy-rich monarchies the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are still spending money hand over first to  reinvent themselves as modern post-oil economies and forward-thinking US allies in the region. Last year, the Saudis agreed to pay Teneo a cool $2.1 million to promote the futuristic city of Neom, a $500 billion project that lies at the heart of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s plans to transform the Saudi economy. Meanwhile the UAE embassy is paying former Foreign Policy CEO David Rothkopf $250,000 for a promotional podcast.

2. Steptoe drops presidential candidate after just 8 days

That didn’t last long. Steptoe & Johnson stopped working for Dominican presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo on June 9 the same day that Foreign Lobby Report first brought the controversial arrangement to light (no word from the firm on whether that’s a coincidence). Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno had been hired June 1 to help schedule meetings for the ruling party candidate and “build relationships” with key audiences. The news caused a media frenzy in the Dominican Republic, where Castillo faces graft allegations stemming from his time as a minister of public works from 2012 to 2019.

Check out the latest development here and our original scoop here.

3. Yemen separatists open New York office to lobby UN

Yemen’s southern separatists are opening a New York office to help press their case for self-rule at the United Nations. The Southern Transitional Council (STC) has hired a branch manager in the Big Apple to garner political and humanitarian support among international organizations. The council announced on April 25 its intention to establish its own administration in regions under its control, upsetting both the UN and their erstwhile allies in the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. We’ve got the story here.

4. Trent Lott finds a new home

Trent Lott speaks at the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference, March 2006, Memphis, Tennessee
(photo by Republican Party of Shelby County / CC-BY 2.0)

Don’t feel too sorry for Trent Lott. The former Republican Senate majority leader from Mississippi and his longtime partner, Louisiana Democrat John Breaux, have landed on their feet at Crossroads Strategies, Politico reports. Squire Patton Boggs fired the pair last week after finding out that they were planning their exit.

While at Squire Patton Boggs, Lott helped lead the losing fight against legislation opening up Saudi Arabia to lawsuits over its alleged responsibility in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as we recalled last week. Lott had also represented the governments of Turkey, South Korea and Cyprus as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq at his old firm. While Crossroads does not currently represent any foreign governments, the firm does maintain a sizable roster of domestic clients with foreign interests, including:

  • Saskatoon, Canada-based grain trader Sunrise Foods International;
  • SSA Marine, a Seattle-based marine terminal operator that is part-owned by Mexico’s FEAPA Holdings;
  • The US subsidiary of French alcohol company ​Pernod Ricard;
  • New York Air Brake, a US subsidiary of German brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse;
  • The US subsidiary of Swedish oat-based alternatives company OATLY;
  • The US subsidiary of Swedish water jet manufacturer Marine Jet Power Holding;
  • The US subsidiary of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi ;
  • Genentech, a US biotechnology company that is owned by Switzerland’s F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.;
  • The US subsidiary of electrical car company BYD of Shenzhen, China; and
  • The US subsidiary of Japanese drugmaker Eisai.

Crossroads also previously lobbied for the government of Australia’s Victoria state and CRRC North America, a subsidiary of China’s major state-owned train manufacturer. Both senators’ sons, Chet Lott and John Breaux, Jr., will join them at Crossroads. The two men — and their sons — have long worked side-by-side, most recently at Squire Patton Boggs. Breaux and Lott plan to bring some of their lobbying clients with them, Crossroads told Politico.

5. Crackdown on Chinese influence fells 54 scientists

NIH campus / Lydia Polimeni, National Institutes of Health

Fallout from the US crackdown on Chinese influence operations continues apace, with Science magazine reporting that 54 scientists have now resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into grantees’ failure to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. In 93% of cases, funding has been tracked back to a Chinese institution.

Similar investigations are under way in higher education and other areas. Last week, the federal government indicted the former chairman of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department on charges of making false statements to federal authorities regarding his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program. 

The Justice Department under pressure from congressional hawks has also recently required Beijing’s China Daily Distribution Corp. to disclose more than $10 million in payments to American newspapers that carry its content, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported last week. Meanwhile legislation that threatens to boot opaque Chinese companies off US stock exchanges is also making waves, with restaurant Yum China Holdings hiring hiring ex-Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) to lobby on the legislation. Read our scoop on that here.

6. Iran unveils talking points on arms embargo

Iran has unveiled its de facto talking points for trying to convince the international community that the Donald Trump administration’s push to renew the international arms embargo on the country is a bad idea. The embargo is due to sunset this year under the 2015 nuclear deal but the US wants the UN to keep it in place. The Iranian Mehr News Agency published a piece on Iran’s five potential countermeasures :

  • Limiting international inspections;
  • Increasing the level of nuclear enrichment;
  • Ending its implementation of the Additional Protocol on expanded verification;
  • Exiting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and
  • Leaving the 2015 nuclear deal.


Former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin has ceased representing foreign clients “in any capacity” effective June 1. Rubin had been registered to lobby for the government of the Dominican Republic, the Qatari Embassy in Washington and the foreign ministry of Zimbabwe for Ballard Partners.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU foreign ministers in their videoconference today highlighted the “joint US and EU resolve to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and our insistence that Russia cease its aggressive actions in the Donbas region,” according to a State Department readout of the call.